Our Family

Our Family

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Apologia Educational Ministries, Flourish

Flourish Book Revie
Many people know of Apologia Educational Ministries because of their award winning science and worldview curriculum.  But, they also have a wealth of materials to support and encourage homeschooling parents.   I recently had an opportunity to read and review Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms  by Mary Jo Tate.
Flourish Book Review
Flourish is a 288 page paperback book written for homeschooling mamas.  It was not written just for stay at home homeschoolmoms, but also working homeschool moms, work at home homeschool moms, and single homeschool moms as well.  In it you will find practical principles to make your home life more successful and balanced and help you find ways to make the most of your time and enjoy your homeschooling journey.  Flourish contains 16 chapters:

An Invitation to Flourish
Change Your Mind to Change Your Time
The FREEDOM Toolbox
Where Did My Time Go?
Aim High: Setting Goals
What Do I Do Next?: Seven Essential Planning Tools
We Interrupt This Program
It's Time For An Attitude Adjustment
Oxygen Masks and Monkey Bread Days
Training Your Children
Making Memories
Managing Your Home
All of Life Learning
Solo Act: Flourishing as a Single Mom
Home Business
Moving Ahead

Each chapter is full of personal stories, quotes, and real life examples related to the topic being discussed.  At the end of each chapter you will find several activities to help you take action and apply what you have learned in that chapter to your life.  At the end of the book there is a list of Recommended Resources and a set of planning forms.  After purchasing Flourish, you will have access to customizable versions of the forms that you can download to your computer and print out.

You can purchase Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms for $15.

Flourish Sample

One of the first things that I wondered when I found out we would have an opportunity to review this book was, " Will it teach me anything new?" You see, as a mom that has been homeschooling for 10 years, I find that many homeschool encouragement books are written towards the brand new homeschool mom and do not have anything in them that I have not read many times before. Flourish arrived and I dived right in completing one chapter per day.  As soon as I started reading, I discovered that Flourish has something in it for everyone.  Whether you are a brand new homeschool mom, a veteran homeschool mom, a homeschool work at home mom, or a single homeschool mom there is something in this book for you.  Every one of us can use advice about how to make our lives more balanced and who does not want their lives and homeschool to Flourish?  Mary Jo gives a lot of great advice and practical examples on how to make that happen. Some of them you may know or do already, but some you may not. You may want to read with your highlighter or something to underline in hand, because I wish'd I would have.  I may have to go back and read it again!

A couple of things that really stood out to this homeschool mom was when Mary Jo was talking about time and time management.  We only have so many hours in the day, and by saying yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else and we need to make sure that are yes to one thing isn't making us say no to something that may be more important.  I really like her "Freedom Toolbox" with Freedom being an acronym for: Focus, Reflect, Educate, Eliminate, Discipline, Organize, and Multitask.  I used to think I had a great memory (and maybe a few children ago I did!) and never felt the need to write anything down.  I am still not great at making lists but I am working on it.  By writing things down it is one less thing I have to worry about spinning my brain into overload!  Another thing that especially stood out to me was the idea of managing your home along with the eliminate part of the Freedom Toolbox.  Too much clutter makes me overwhelmed especially when it seems like we do not have a place for everything.  I have started removing some of the clutter systematically so it is one less thing I have to manage.  I started with the boys closet.  We had way too many clothes up there, and it was wonderfully freeing to see them all go out the door!

There may be some sections of Flourish that you do not think will apply to you such as the section on single moms or home business, but they are worth reading through anyway.  You may know single homeschooling moms or find something in the home business section that you can apply to your life or you may start a business someday.  Flourish is a book that you can take what you need out of it and perhaps down the road you may read it again and be ready to add in more of a certain area.  You can tweak the planning goals to fit whatever your situation may be at that time as like everything else about homeschooling we are all unique and each person's Life In Balance will look a little different.

To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below!
Click to read Crew Reviews

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

And The Spelling You See Giveaway Winner Is........

Michael Taylor!!!!


Please respond to my email within 48 hours.

Thank you so much to all who entered!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Schoolhouse Crew Review: HomeSchoolPiano

Homeschool Piano Review
Have you ever wanted your children to learn to play the piano but do not think you can afford private lessons?  Or maybe it just isn't feasible for you to travel back and forth to weekly lessons with a private instructor.  Over the last several weeks we have had an opportunity to do piano lessons right from the comfort of our own home using HomeSchoolPiano.  For our review, we received HomeSchoolPiano-Complete Set of Books.
Homeschool Piano Review
HomeSchoolPiano is online piano instruction for all ages and abilities.  Lessons are taught using videos and downloadable lesson books. Videos can be viewed on your computer or tablet. Students can work at their own pace and even watch the videos multiple times as needed.  You do not need any special equipment to use HomeSchoolPiano.  Any computer or tablet that can access the internet will work.  HomeSchoolPiano recommends using a piano or keyboard that has full size keys, has a stand and a bench to make playing comfortable, and has at least 49 keys.
Homeschool Piano Review
To help students master piano and obtain success faster, HomeSchoolPiano uses a 6 step cycle within each unit:
1. Technique
3.Ear Training
4.Reading Music

There are 4 levels that you will have access to:

Core Piano-Core piano is for the absolute beginner.  There are 33 videos in this section starting with an intro and notes of the piano and working your way up to key signatures and basic rhythm.  Along the way you will learn many different things about technique, chords, scales, reading music, playing hands together, and much more.  There is also a PDF book to download and print out.
Book One- Book one is for the beginner or those who haven't played for awhile. There are 6 units in this book with 7 lessons in each unit (one of each of the 6 step cycle and one bonus lesson.) There are lesson quizzes to take after the lessons and a new song is learned in each unit.  There is also a PDF book to download and print out.
Book Two- This is for beginner to intermediate students or those who have finished book one.  In this book the songs, concepts, and improvisation techniques start to become more complex.  Like book one there are 6 units with 7 lessons and lesson quizzes to take.  There is also a PDF book to download and print out.
Book Three-This book is for intermediate or those you have finished book two.  By the end of this level students will be getting into more advanced concepts like syncopation, voice leading, and more advanced scales for improvisation.  This level also has 6 units with 7 videos in each lesson, lesson quizzes, and a PDF download lesson book to print out.

Video lesson length varies and then students need time to practice what they have learned.  It is recommended that students spend at least 30 minutes a day 5 times a week practicing what they have learned.  How many lessons they complete and how quickly they complete them will depend on the student.

You can sign up for a free lesson to get a feel for the program and how it works.

HomeSchoolPiano offers two different payment packages:
1. Success Package-$299 UNLIMITED LIFETIME ACCESS to HomeSchoolPiano including all of the bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.
2. Payment Plan -$99.97 a month for 3 months UNLIMITED LIFETIME ACCESS to HomeSchoolPiano including all of the bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

I have been using the Core Piano level with my 5 year old daughter and we have also completed a few lessons in Book One. We have used both the iPad and a laptop to view the videos.  We do not have a piano or a regular keyboard, we have a Midi Keyboard that has to be connected to a computer in order to be used.  You do NOT need to have this type of keyboard to use HomeSchoolPiano, but this is what we already had at home.  We have a slow internet connection so I let the videos load all the way and then played them so we would not have to keep stopping and starting.  We watched several videos each week and practiced the concepts after viewing the videos.

One of the first things that I really liked about HomeSchoolPiano was that the subscription is a lifetime subscription AND you do not have to chose one level, you get access to all of the levels. This is especially wonderful for those who have multiple children using the subscription.   Also, being able to view the lessons on a mobile device such as  tablet is a great feature.  The lessons are short and to the point.  You can see everything the instructor is doing on the screen including every note played and labeled. When you start at the core piano level, you are really taught everything right from the beginning, no prior knowledge is needed.  It is just as if you are bringing an instructor right into your home.  So even  if you are a parent who has no musical knowledge at all, your child can learn piano, and if you watch them with your child, you will too.  The teaching methods make sense.  For instance, instead of having the children memorize names or phrases to remember the lines and spaces, Willie teaches them to go in alphabetical order to remember which was which. This made so much more sense to me!  Also, the techniques are different (and a lot more fun) than any piano lessons I have seen before.  Even teaching the different note and rest lengths by vocalizing them is a concept that I had never been taught before but I think is a great way to teach children.  Doing scales and learning notes does not have to be boring!  Children are encouraged right from the beginning to put their own heart and soul in the music and do a lot of improvisation which I think is fantastic!

I love the quizzes that go along with some of the lessons.  I also like the records that you can view for each child.  I sat with Lily and watched the videos with her, but if you have a child that is working independently, you can see at a glance what they have completed.  Also, you have the ability to download the lessons starting in Book One in both video and mP3 format, except for the Ear Training lessons which do not have a download option. So you can watch the videos without an internet connection and also just listen to them if you wish.  You do not necessarily have to have your computer in the same room as your piano to use HomeSchoolPiano, but if there is a way for you to view the lessons while at the piano/keyboard it would be very helpful.

Lily did have a bit of a hard time using  HomeSchoolPiano.  She is only 5 and used to using a piano lesson that has a lot of games and interactive features so the videos, especially the first few in Core Piano, had a hard time holding her attention.  As she was able to try a bit more she did get a little more interested. I am so thankful that we have a lifetime subscription because I know as she gets a little older she will be able to come back to these and learn some new skills.  I also hope to get my boys playing, and even brush up on some skills myself!

To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.
Click to read Crew Reviews


Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Day at the Lake

We have not been able to take a camping trip at all yet this year.  But, we thought it would be fun to take the children for the day to go out to the lake.  It has been much cooler in Arkansas than it normally would be for July, but that can make it much better for spending the day outdoors!

We decided to go out to one of our favorite camping spots, Jefferson Ridge.  You can fish right off the bank, there is a great little swimming area, and a playground.  The only negative is that the bathroom is quite a distance from the swimming/playground area (a woman certainly did not plan that!) and when you have little ones they can't always make the hike up the hill (and it is a hike!) so we drive back and forth to the bathroom quite a bit when we are there and today was no exception to that.  The children had a great time though!

We played on the playground for a while.

Nick and Alex were not at all interested in the playground, they just wanted to do some fishing.

It wasn't long before the others joined them.  Emelia had wanted to catch a purple catfish.  We did not catch any of those, but they did catch some small sunfish.  We lost half a fishing rod (still not exactly sure how that happened, but Alex was pretty upset) and we did not recover it.

Then we had a picnic lunch and got ready to do some swimming.  They spent hours swimming. The water was not very warm, but the children did not mind at all.  Lily was even brave enough this year to go down the water slide!

This crazy dog who does not like to go out in the rain and get her paws wet decided she was going to go into the lake after the children.

Chelsea even had a chance to come out there with us for a little while before she had to go to work.

We had a great time and I think the all will be sleeping well tonight!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What Curriculum Should I Choose?

That is usually the first question people ask once they have made the decision to homeschool and make sure they are aware of all the legal requirements.  It is not a quick and easy question to answer however.  Google the words "homeschool curriculum" and you will get 6,320,000 results, and that number will continue to grow as homeschooling itself continues to grow and more and more curriculum is being developed and sold.

There are a lot of different things to think about before deciding what curriculum to choose.  One of the first things you need to think about before trying to choose curriculum is what kind of goals you have for your homeschool.  What subjects do you want your children to study?  What subjects do they want to learn?  My children may not get a say in everything we do (regardless of whether or not they like it they will do math!) but they do get a choice in what topic we may be learning about that year in science or what books they would like to read for literature.  Our first year of homeschooling my daughter was in love with the Little House on the Prairie series, so I chose the Prairie Primer for our base curriculum and added in Math. There also may be an elective like computer programming or a foreign language your child is especially interested in and you will want to add in to your curriculum plans. (*Note if you have just brought home a child from school who is not happy to be homeschooling it may not be the best time to ask their opinion.)  You do need to check with the legal requirements for your state to make sure you are covering anything that is required.

Figuring out what homeschool methods you may like or identify with the most may help you narrow down what type of curriculum you want to us. Do you want to follow traditional methods and be a school at home? Or maybe you would rather unschool. Perhaps you would be interested in classical or Charlotte Mason curriculum.  Or, if you are like me you might call yourself eclectic and just use a little bit of everything!  This article gives an overview of the different homeschool methods if you are interested in reading more about them.

Each homeschool family is different.  I would have a different approach to my homeschool and use different curricula than I do if for instance I only had young children, or just high school children, or only one child.  Because I have such a wide range of ages in my house, I look for curriculum choices that can cover a wide range of ages as we work together in as many areas as possible.   This helps me narrow down my choices quite a bit as many traditional grade level texts will just not work for my family.

How involved do you want to be?  Another way of narrowing down curriculum choices is to take a look at how teacher intensive they are.  How much planning ahead of time is required?  About how many hours a day will you need to spend on this curriculum?  Is it something that a child can do on their own?  Since we work together as a family, we do our bible, history, and science as read alouds and work on hands on projects together.  I know I will be spending that time in the morning doing that work, but I choose curriculum that does not require hardly any advanced prep besides gathering supplies for chosen experiments.  For our afternoon school work, I have to work one on one with the younger children, but the older ones like to work independently so I choose curriculum that they can do on their own with very little help from me.

With all of the advances in technology, there are a ton of homeschool options that you can access online.  Some options like K-12 require the child to do everything online.  Other options you can pick and choose which courses you want to purchase.  Some require you to be online at certain days and times for classes while others you can just go on and work when it is convenient for you.  You can even take music lessons or a foreign language via Skype!  There are so many options out there that you can take advantage of if it is something you can fit into your budget and will work for you and your child.

We have to talk a bit about cost.  That can be a big concern for a homeschool family and it is a big factor under the "what curriculum should I choose" question.  This is something that will vary from family to family.  Homeschool families are often single income families and it can be hard to imagine how you are going to afford school books and supplies when you are already on a tight  income.  You do not have to spend a lot of money to homeschool.  You can spend anywhere from next to nothing to thousands of dollars a year.  If you are willing to spend the time putting your curriculum together, researching, and organizing what you need, you can homeschool with nothing more than a library card, the internet, and some school supplies.  If you want to buy a "curriculum in a box" where everything you can imagine comes from one place and all in one box you will spend several hundred dollars.  If you want to do several online classes where a teacher collects and grades work, it will be more expensive.  Homeschooling requires a budget just like any other expense you have.  You have to figure out what you can afford to spend and find curriculum to fit those needs.  There have been times when I have wanted to buy some curriculum that I did not have the money for.  I usually can swing it by selling some other things that I no longer need.  Don't feel like you have to go into debt to provide the best possible education for your child, there is lot of great curriculum that is very affordable.

Definitely take the time to read reviews about curriculum as you are narrowing down your choices.  Do not pay any attention to whether or not people like something, but instead to what they like or don't like.  If for instance someone loves a curriculum because it requires heavy challenging reading but your child is not a strong reader, it is not going to work for you.

Don't be afraid to stop using something that is not working.  Especially when you are just starting out it can be hard to figure out what will work the best.  Often it is a case of trial and error and you will not know until you actually have been able to use it.  Unfortunately new homeschoolers especially feel like they are failing if it is not working.  Trust me you are not and it is ok to try something else!!

Happy Homeschooling!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Spelling You See Giveaway!!

I first heard of Math U See my very first year of homeschooling when a homeschool friend recommended it to me.  All of my children have been successful with Math U See.  It truly is our favorite Math curriculum.  I was very excited to learn several months ago that Demme Learning, Math U See's parent company was developing a brand new spelling curriculum called Spelling You See.  

Spelling You See  is a natural, easy way to teach and learn spelling.  The program does not use word lists, rule memorization, or spelling tests to teach spelling.  Instead, children learn spelling through short daily activities using copywork, reading, listening, and speaking.  There are five levels of Spelling You See currently available, with plans to add two more levels.  The levels are not grade based.  They are based on ability starting with beginning readers.  You can read through this placement guide to see which level of Spelling You See you should begin with.

Current available levels are:

Listen and Write (Level A)
Jack and Jill (Level B)
Wild Tales (Level C)
American (Level D)
American Spirit (Level E)

Each level has an Instructor's Handbook and Student Pack that needs to be purchased.  You can use the Instructor's Handbook over again if you have more children or use it for multiple children using the same level, but the Student Pack is consumable and you will need to purchase one for each child using the level.

You can view samples, read more details on each level, and purchase here.

A few months ago I had an opportunity as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew to review Level A Listen and Write with my 5 year old daughter.  You can read my complete review here.  One of the things I loved about the program was the ease of use.  I did not need to do any advanced preparation or read though many pages of teacher's notes.  We just had to grab the books and a pencil and sit down at the table. Lessons only took 10 minutes a day which is great for a busy homeschool mom, and Lily enjoyed doing the lessons and putting her stickers on when she was finished.  She had even started reading some of the words she had been learning after only completing a few lessons.


I am thrilled to be hosting a giveaway for the winner's choice of one complete level of Spelling You See!  Giveaway will begin on July 14th and end on July 21st  at 12:00 am.  Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Enter via the rafflecopter below.  Winner will be chosen at random and have 48 hours after being notified to respond or a new winner will chosen.  Prize will be fulfilled by Spelling You See.  

Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: Jesus Get to Know Series by Nancy I. Sanders


"Jesus - part of the Get to Know series - is a unique biography about Jesus, the son of God. Focusing on the life and character of this Biblical hero, using color photographs, maps, and other visual resources to tell the whole story, young biography fans will come to learn more about this man of the God and the role he plays in history. Featuring a bibliography and scriptural references throughout, this is sure to become a favorite for young readers and for first book reports."

A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to review the Apostle Paul-part of the Get to Know  series.  As soon as I had finished and posted that review, I requested Jesus-part of the Get to Know series.  It is wonderful!  I love this series of biographies for children!  I love the maps, photos, and artwork.  I love the included background information.  I love the definitions.  I love the sections on Bible Trivia, eyewitness accounts, and information on Bible heroes.  There is even a color timeline in the back of the book (there is a small error in this timeline: a BC where there should be an AD on the approximate date of Jesus' baptism.)  This little biography is packed full of information on the life and times of Jesus.  I love this series and look forward to reading more in the future!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC regulations.